Ecumenical Visit to “help our political leaders in making peace”: South Sudanese Catholic

Edmond Yakani. Credit: Civil Rights Defenders

The scheduled ecumenical visit of Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, to South Sudan will have an impact of politicians in the East-Central African nation to work toward lasting peace, a lay Catholic has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Edmond Yakani who is at the helm of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) in South Sudan that spearheaded the campaign dubbed “remember Pope Francis' Kiss for Peace” said that the people of God in the country hope the visit will help realize positive change.

“Citizens are expecting the coming of the Holy Father as an end to violence because it will help our political leaders in making peace and stability realized,” Mr. Yakani said during the Thursday, June 2 interview.

He recalled the 11 April 2019 dramatic gesture when Pope Francis knelt and kissed the feet of President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar among others, saying, the ecumenical visit “is in line with the call of the Pope (when he kissed) the feet of our leaders.”

The dramatic gesture was after a spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President, the opposition leader, Dr. Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan. 


Reflections during the retreat had focused on the national anthem of South Sudan under the guidance of Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Uganda’s Gulu Archdiocese, and Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator who was then at the helm of the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar.

In the June 2 interview with ACI Africa, Mr. Yakani spoke about the “remember Pope Francis' Kiss for Peace” that CEPO launched on April 10.

The Director of CEPO said that South Sudanese are looking forward to the coming of Pope Francis to the country as an event that is to usher in “a positive change because if there is stability, development can prosper and this is the central expectation of the citizens as far as this campaign is concerned.”

“We are expecting the power of the Holy Spirit because we will feel the visit of the Holy Father as the Holy Spirit speaking to us and our political leaders,” Mr. Yakani said.

He added, “The visit of the Holy Father and other top religious leaders is a big international opportunity to expose South Sudan to the global community.” 

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Archbishop Welby and Rev. Wallace are to join Pope Francis in the final leg of his two-African-nation pastoral trip that is to begin in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, on July 2, and then to the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC.

In a May 7 joint-statement, Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby, and Rev. Wallace described the planned July 5-7 trip to South Sudan as a “pilgrimage of peace” and urged South Sudanese leaders to foster the “way of forgiveness and freedom.”

In the June 2, the Director of CEPO said that members of his entity “have launched what is called public messaging where citizens are asked about the visit of the Pope and what the kiss on our leader's feet mean for them.”

“We have started uploading this on a WhatsApp group and will be accessible across the country and the refugees in the IDP camps,” he further said.

Mr. Yakani added, “This public voice will continue until the 15th of June, and then from there until the visit of the Pope, we will be much more focusing on issues related to raising public expectation towards peace and stability.”


“We shall be focusing on what citizens expect the Pope to speak to us for peace and stability,” he further said, adding, “We are now printing T-shirts with the logo of our campaign as our next move to raise awareness about the ecumenical visit.”

Mr. Yakani said that the first week of June is dedicated to opening “a Facebook page for more interaction with the people and we are also going to have a YouTube video uploading system for free where anyone can record voice.”

Last week, officials of the Holy See Press unveiled the itinerary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what they have described an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”. 

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and the third Papal visit to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.